12 Weeks Of Summer Vacation {Giveaway}

Register to win a summer family vacation. This summer USFamilyGuide.com has created a promotion that celebrates the family vacation by giving away 12 incredible trips for families looking to create their own memories. They have hand picked some of the most memorable destinations their families have experienced and asked them to provide a FREE vacation to award to perhaps YOU!  Who wouldn’t want to win a fantastic vacation giveaway anyway?!?!

One entry per day
Prizes will be awarded beginning June 1 through July 31.

Click here to enter: http://www.usfamilyguide.com/Family_Vacation_Sweepstakes/?blogid=966.

With summer just around the corner, be sure to visit USFamilyGuide.com.  They offer coupons for businesses in your area.  Take a peek at what’s available in your area: http://www.usfamilycoupons.com/.

Disclaimer:  This post is NOT sponsored, but I am also in the running for a FREE vacation. 

Her Thoughts On: Valentine’s Day

My husband and I have differing opinions when it comes to this holiday.  Just the other day, while I ran down my list of errands to run and mentioned that I had to stop at Target for my daughter’s Valentine’s Day gift, he kind of scoffed and said “Valentine’s Day is for couples.  I don’t see why you still buy her all these presents.”  For the record, I don’t buy her something for every holiday.  There are no four leaf clover gift baskets on St. Patrick’s Day, and no extra gift along with her turkey on Thanksgiving.

Valentine’s Day, however, is a holiday to celebrate because it is the holiday of LOVE.  Love, in my opinion, is not limited to sweethearts on Valentine’s Day.  It is a day to celebrate loved friends and family members and, of course, my daughter is one of them.

Before I met my husband, my daughter and I were perfect partners.  Attached at the hip.  And for many years, she was my only Valentine.  We were in it together and, honestly, she helped me feel less lonely on Valentine’s Day.  The holiday didn’t bother me as much as it bothers many single women because, at the very least, I shared it with her.  We’d hang out for the day, go to dinner, and do whatever we felt like doing…together.

This is one of the very first Valentine’s Day cards she ever made me (in pre-school, of course).  I loved receiving her card every year – and still do.  Although now they come from some place called Hallmark.

Then, along came my husband.  Suddenly, my little twosome blossomed into three (and shortly after, four) and I had so much more to be grateful for on Valentine’s Day.  Big red hearts and flowers and boxes of chocolates?  Bring it on!  I don’t mind spending a bit of extra cash for the big Love Fest – I’m simply blessed and honored to have more “Valentine’s” to share it with.

This is my daughter’s Valentine’s Day basket (she’s now twelve).  I look forward to sharing the day with her and the rest of my family and hope all of you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  Please let the ones you love know how much they mean to you (candies and gifts and treats totally optional).

Does Your Pasta have a Personality?

Mine does! And, apparently, it’s Penne Franco…a pasta dish at Carrabba’s Italian Grill
You can take the pasta personality quiz too…head on over to Carrabba’s Facebook page and see what your Pasta Personality says about you.
Here’s the Penne Franco personality result:
You’re truly one of a kind, like Carrabba’s Penne Franco. You like to keep things fresh and exciting. So next time you want to try something new, choose our unique Penne Franco: penne with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and ricotta salata.
Hmm…sounds about right. And penne with mushrooms sounds like it’s right up my alley. I would love that dish! Although, most of the pasta I cook at home is made with red pasta sauce. For me it’s the easiest way to enjoy a nice pasta meal. I just doctor up any existing pasta sauce to my specifications and eat! Super easy. I’m like Chicago’s version of that Semi-Homemade show on Food Network.
Here’s what I do:
In a pan I brown my ground beef (or turkey) with sofrito (a Latin seasoning), minced garlic, Adobo (another Spanish seasoning), oregano, Italian seasoning, and black pepper. (This is BY FAR the best tasting meat for pasta sauce flavoring. I’m not a big meatballs kind of girl, so I just add the ground beef to my sauce.) Once that’s browned, I add a jar of pasta sauce (any pasta sauce will do – Ragu, Classico, store brand – basically, whichever one was on sale that week), a can of diced tomatoes, and extra tomato sauce if needed. And that’s it folks! Add this to any type of cooked pasta and dinner is served!
Wow…I kinda pimped that recipe out kinda fast. It took my best friend MONTHS before she shared that recipe with me. She said it was because she was always able to lure me over to her house just by saying “I made pasta!” and if she gave me the recipe I’d never come over for dinner anymore. LOL Well, that turned out not to be true because I still manage to drive over when she asks. It’s about hanging out with HER, ya know, and not some pasta dish!
But, I will admit, I make that recipe for my family often and I only have her to thank. Getting the recipe was like pulling teeth from her, but I'm so glad she finally gave in.  My family LOVES when I make pasta and, considering it only takes me about 30 minutes to make – so do I!  Because after a long day of work, NOTHING beats a 30 minute meal.
Mouth watering yet?  Make sure you take the Carrabba’s Pasta Personality Quiz for yourself, and check out some other deals they’re offering:
 Carrabba’s Signature Pasta Meals and New Limited Time Offers
Signature Pasta Meals, featuring seven distinctive dishes served with choice of soup or fresh salad starting at $10. There’s no better place than Carrabba’s to enjoy a complete Italian meal – any day of the week.


 CARRABBA’S PASTA: Carrabba’s makes every pasta dish by hand with the freshest ingredients.  Pasta is cooked perfectly every time and signature sauces are made from scratch daily. Creative flavors and combinations of ingredients are part of Carrabba’s authentic family recipes as well as new creations.

LIMITED TIME OFFERS: Now through July 2011.
Featured Signature Pasta Meal:
Pasto Rambo – Named for the chef who created it, it’s made with shrimp tossed with imported Italian linguine, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes sautéed in our basil lemon butter sauce. Lobster is available instead of shrimp for an additional cost.

Other Limited Time Offers:
Parmesan-crusted Chicken – Topped with fresh arugula and grape tomatoes tossed in a hand-prepared lemon vinaigrette, served with choice of side. Substitution of wood-grilled chicken also available. Pairs well with Estancia Pinot Grigio.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin – Three pork tenderloin medallions wrapped with prosciutto, wood-grilled and topped with an apple and fig infused port wine sauce, served with the vegetable of the day. Pairs well with Coppola Pinot Noir.

Limoncello Bread Pudding – Back by popular demand! Brioche bread pudding made with fresh Madagascar vanilla beans and a rich custard, served hot out of the oven. Topped with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and drizzled with Carrabba’s homemade Caravella Limoncello liqueur sauce.

Now Introducing:
Peach SangriaCarrabba’s new light and fruity Peach Sangria blends Copper Ridge White Zinfandel, Absolut Apeach vodka and Patrón Citrónge with a splash of citrus. Topped with a fresh lemon wedge and strawberry, it’s a taste of the Amalfi Coast in spring.

Locations: Visit www.carrabbas.com for the closest Carrabba’s location. There are more than 230 locations nationwide.

About Carrabba’s:
Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola founded the first Carrabba’s Italian Grill in 1986 in Houston, Texas. Today, there are 232 Carrabba’s Italian Grill locations around the country, run by passionate local proprietors focused on delighting guests with fresh, made-to-order Italian cuisine and the ultimate dining experience. Carrabba’s serves dinner seven nights a week in a casual environment that pairs innovative dishes and a complementary wine list with abundant hospitality. For on-the-go guests, Carrabba’s also offers convenient Carside Carry-Out. To learn more about Carrabba’s, please visit www.carrabbas.com.

DISCLOSURE: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Carrabba’s blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

El Dia del Nino (Children’s Day)

In about an hour – well, definitely by the time I post this – it will be El Día del Niño, or Children’s Day.  Children’s Day is an event that is celebrated around the world on various days, including many Latin American countries.  In Mexico,  El Día del Niño is celebrated annually on April 30th.   Although not a state holiday, children feel special on their celebrated day.  Some schools even close for the day or let the kids wear shorts and a colored shirt.

I searched online for about an hour, looking for any local events that honored the day, with no luck.  I couldn’t find a single event in all of Illinois celebrating the kids on April 30th.  Not a library, park district, or local club.  Hmpf!  Guess I’ll just have to figure out something to do.

I figured we could get out of the house, visit family and spend some time together.  Then – I checked the forecast.  Rain…AGAIN!  Bah – so sick of this weather!  Guess I’ll be staying in.

But – that’s not necessarily a bad thing!  Kids don’t care what you do with them, simply that you spent time with them.  Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are of tickle fights with my dad.  Tickle fights = FREE fun – in your PJ’s.

So, that’s what I’ll do with my family tomorrow.  We’ll have breakfast and lounge around.  Watch a movie (or two), maybe play a board game, and just chill.  Together.  Maybe I’ll even throw in a few tickle fights.

And, speaking of breakfast, Kellogg is helping kick off El Día del Niño this year!  Kellogg believes in the power of breakfast and its ability to bring out the best in each day. One way for moms and kids to celebrate El Día del Niño is by starting their day off right with breakfast and enjoying a ticket to the movies.  Here’s how you can be a part of Kellogg’s current promotion for a free kids movie pass with a mail-in official form:

  • Buy any three Kellogg cereals (8.7 oz or larger) or EGGO Waffles (6 count or larger) and receive a free kids movie pass (up to $7.50 value) with mail-in official form.
  • The order form can be found on special packages of Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Krispies.  Tear pads are also available in the cereal aisle or from an EGGO freezer cling.

So, have fun with your families!  And remember, a little bit of time, goes a LONG way.

Disclosure: This post is part of a blogging program from the Kellogg Company and Latina Bloggers Connect.  I am eligible to win a $35 payment for this post.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I Won’t Be Having One of Those

Sitting in my grandmother’s cramped Humbolt Park apartment, I remember being completely uncomfortable.  Sweating on the hot plastic sofa covers, nervously darting my eyes back and forth, hoping to escape the terrified scurries of what we liked to call “Grandma’s Pets” AKA roaches.  I hated visiting my father’s side of the family.  Not only was I trying to avoid the building’s resident insects, but grandma was old school; no juice with your food.  To a kid, that’s just nasty.  I needed something to wash down that spicy Latin food!

That Saturday, we were gathered to welcome my uncle to Chicago after living in Puerto Rico all his life.  I’d never met him, but “family” is extremely important to my father – it’s a Latino thing – so we all had to be there.

When he arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had gifts for the kids!  Awesome – what kid doesn’t want presents?!  Immediately I pictured a doll dressed in traditional folklore attire, or at the very least, some flip-flops!

When he opened his luggage and pulled out the bag, I almost couldn’t contain my excitement.  He reached in and pulled out what looked like a bunch of little green balls growing on a stick.

Um, eww, that is NOT a present – it was more like a weed.

“Mandy, why the ugly face?” asked my dad.

“What is it?”

“They’re called quenepas.  It’s fruit – taste it.”

Yeah right, that is not fruit. Fruits are bananas, apples, and pears.  That wasn’t finding its way in my mouth.  But with the entire family now looking on, it appeared I didn’t have a choice.

The quenepa (pronounced kee-neh-pah) is a small green ball, about the size of a quarter.  The traditional way to eat them is to put the entire ball in your mouth, crack the thin shell, and chew the pulp off the seed.

My first taste was simply divine.  The gelatinous, fleshy pulp was juicy and mildly sweet.  It tasted like nothing I’ve known before and on that hot, summer day I was converted.  Now I anxiously await for family to visit – and bring me some quenepas!


This is my very first post for The Red Dress Club’s RemembeRED memoir series.  This week’s prompt was to write about your favorite fruit or vegetable.

About Baby B

When I first found out I was pregnant I was ecstatic, elated, sooooo happy!  Immediately I had visions of baby dresses, pigtails and dolls.  My daughter would soon be eleven so it had been a LONG time since I had a little peanut growing inside of me.

All doctor appointments went well and I couldn’t wait for the first images of my little girl.

Then, I heard those words.  “Congratulations!  You’re having a boy!”

Hold up.  A what?!?!  NOOOOOOO!  That can’t be right.  Check again, I’m having a girl.

Nope.  Absolutely not.  Most definitely a boy.  In that moment all my dreams of finally having another little girl to play dress-up with were over.  In an instant.  I’m not proud to say that I was disappointed…a little.

No baby dresses.  No pigtails.  No dolls.

Instead, those images were replaced with baseballs, footballs, and blue.  Lots of blue.

What was I going to do?  I don’t know the first thing about sports.  I’m going to have to run?  Dribble a ball?  What was I going to do with a boy?

Then, my boy came.  Baby B.  Cutest. Baby. Ever.

Immediately, I was in love.  I wanted to eat his chubby cheeks.  He was beautiful.  Everything I never knew I always wanted.

Now, at five months (he will be on Wednesday) he is my world.  I love his screeches sounds, his face, his everything.  The way he looks at me with those adorable still-grey eyes that tell me that he loves me right back.  Baby B.  My son.

AND…he even looks like me!

When he was born I was convinced that I was merely an incubator…both of my kids resemble their fathers.  I was only necessary to bake ‘em for 9 months, I thought.  Then my dad sent me that photo and, FINALLY, I can see ME in Baby B.

Now I know exactly what I will do as he gets older.

Love him.  Always.

That’s all a child really needs anyway.

Weekend Wrap-up: How many people are coming over?

This weekend has been exhausting (aren’t they all though?).  Thank goodness for  U.S. Presidents…wouldn’t have a day off tomorrow without them.

I am finally starting to wind down after yet another hectic weekend. (Still have that sangria handy, PHEW!)  Friday kicked off with the weekly “Mom, can my friend sleep over?”  Sure.  Fine.  I try not to cave too often, but the girl wears me down sometimes.  So while she’s relaxing with the BFF, my husband and I needed something to do too.  So, naturally of course, we headed to the local liquor store: vodka for him, undecided for me.

We chatted up the owner for some recommendations, and whaddya know, we get a totally free, impromptu wine tasting.  Score!   Probably had the equivalent to 2 glasses of wine.  He was GREAT!  I ended up walking out with a nice bottle of sangria, bottled right here in Illinois.  So cool.

Saturday was rough.  Baby B had me up before 7am while the rest of the house was still asleep.  Had to run some errands before the first round of people showed up so was out and about for a few hours.  Long story short, we had a visit from the grandparents, my daughter’s friend, my sister, my brother with his family, and my friend and her family.  For a grand total of 13 people!  13 totally unexpected guests all in one day.  That’s enough to drive anyone bananas.

Today was just a little more relaxed, but still had to venture out to run some errands.  Errands involving money.  Always involving money.  Although we did finally find a solution to the hard-as-a-rock play yard mattress.  Can’t really call it a mattress though.  More like covered plywood.  Guess we’ll save next month…

If I Hear “Mom, I’m Bored!” One More Time…

Ugh.  I just want to scream!  My lovely, almost 12-yo daughter, Miss-Y, needs to develop her imagination already.  I am inundated DAILY with groans of “I’m bored”, “There’s nothing for me to do”, or “Mom, let’s DO something”.  Are you kidding me?!?!  I don’t ever remember being this bored growing up.  There was always something for me to do – and I DIDN’T grow up in this new age of technology either.  No Wii.  No Xbox.  No cell phone.  No laptop.  Come to think of it, what did I do? LOL

I did plenty.  These are the options I gave to little Miss-Y and a few ideas for you too:

Go Outside

I don’t care what temp the weatherman says it is – just go out there and play!  If it’s snowing, build a snowman.  If it’s warm, ride your bike.  Invite a friend.  Play hopscotch.  Play tag.  ANYTHING!  Just go!  Friends not around?  You don’t have to go by yourself – I’ll join you.  Just ask.

Read a Book

It amazes me how my love of reading completely skipped over this child.  I can read for hours!  She can’t stand reading for minutes.  I figured that she was just reading the wrong material.  I asked her what kind of stuff she’d be interested in and she said – scary short stories.  Great!  Now get on that little laptop of yours, look up some books, and I’ll gladly swing by the library and pick them up.  It’s that simple.

Make Something

Arts & crafts are a great way to allow kids of any age to express themselves.  Draw a picture.  Make a card for someone.  Paint.  Learn to sew, knit, crochet.  All great ways to keep a kid’s mind occupied.  It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it gets your creative juices flowing.

Get Online

Not to chat, or instant message, or Facebook, but try to find some cool sites suitable for your interests and age group.  A few that I love for bored tween girls are:

girlslife.com – eZine for tweens & up

beinggirl.com – great site with articles, games, and quizzes

girlsense.com – makeover site where you can design your own clothes

stardoll.com – makeover your own doll, or one of a celebrity

cosmogirl.com – Cosmo’s site for young girls

Pick Up the Phone!

Stop texting & start calling.  Kids today hardly ever opt for voice contact.  They’d rather spend HOURS texting a conversation that could’ve been had within 10 minutes on the phone.  So try it.  You’ll get to know your friends much better that way.

Pick any of these activities – or choose one of a million others – and just DO something.  Please.  You’ll have fun – and you just might stop telling me how bored you are.

I had a Resolution?

Image: nattavut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mid-February.  Just days after Valentine’s Day.  Less than two months ago we all celebrated the beginning of a brand new year and made some resolutions to change our lives for the better.  I resolved to…er…um…what was that resolution again?

Being a working mom of two kids, I can barely remember what happened last week, let alone at the beginning of the year!  I have short-term mom memory, making it impossible to remember something for an entire year.  Not only that, but think about the discipline it takes to vow to make a change for a year.  That’s 365 days!  Yikes!

So I’ve resolved to make mini-resolutions.  (Haha)  This month I’ll start with a Weekly Resolution, eventually working my way up to a Monthly Resolution.  Lord knows, I have a few areas in my life that need some improvement!  I also want my goals/resolutions to be a bit more attainable than the lose weight, save money, yadda, yadda we hear all the time.  I’ll set realistic resolutions with measurable goals attached to them.

Well, here goes:  My first overall resolution is to spend more quality time with my family.  To achieve this, I’ve already started my “one hour of TV a day” rule for the week and, so far, so good. I think I’ll keep that this week.  But, wait – does that include weekends?  Um…maybe not.  I set the rules, so I can change them, right?  How about this…one hour of catch-up on TV shows, but I’m allowed to watch a movie with my family?  Sounds fair to me.  Wish me luck!

I wrote this post for Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop in response to Prompt #5: How’s that New Year’s Resolution Treating You?  I totally forgot what I signed up for at the beginning of the year!  Whoops!

Hello world!

I sort of like the default title for my first post, so I’m keeping it!  Hello world, indeed.  I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for some time now – not really sure why though.  I think I just wanted a way to post my thoughts on things like, books, movies, family life, and anything else that tickles my fancy – I’m very opinionated so this should be fun!  Thanks for stopping by and checking out my site!

Thoughts from Her_Profile

Here are a couple of things you should know about me.  I’m a married mom of two kids (a beautiful – stunning, really – 11-year-old girl, and a very chunky monkey 4-month-old boy), we live in Chicagoland suburbia with my mom as my live-in nanny.  We’ve recently moved to the suburbs from Chicago and what a difference it has been!

One last, but very important fact about me – I love catching mistakes in grammar.  Really love it.  Almost obsessed with it.  So much so that I even read through junk mail, just to catch the mistakes.  My husband, kids, and friends probably don’t love it so much though.  I’m sure the last thing they want to hear is that they sent a text with a misspelled word…but whatever, I’ll continue to correct them.  The disease is pretty much a part of me now.

Well, that’s about it.  Check back often!

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